David Geffen

NET WORTH: $8.1 billion

SOURCE of WEALTH: Asylum Records, Geffen Records, Geffen Film Company, Dreamworks SKG

FUNDING AREAS: Health, Education, Arts & Culture, LGBT

OVERVIEW: Geffen has been a major proponent of marriage equality and donator to LGBT causes. He also funds numerous organizations that fight AIDS, but his biggest contribution has been the $300 million he has donated to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He has also made significant contributions to organizations focusing on the arts, and education.  Geffen gave $100 million each to MoMA and Lincoln Center.

BACKGROUND: Geffen grew up in Brooklyn, the son of Jewish immigrants who met in Palestine, then moved to the United States. After barely graduating high school, he briefly attended several different colleges before dropping out entirely. He then went to work at the mailroom of the William Morris Agency and quickly became a talent agent. His career really began to take off, though, when he left to become a personal agent, finding success with Laura Nyro and Crosby, Stills and Nash. When he was unable to get a record deal for Jackson Browne, he started his own label, Asylum Records. Later, he founded Geffen Records, and the Geffen Film Company. In 1994, Geffen partnered with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, putting up $33 million for an equal share in DreamWorks SKG. 


HEALTH:  In 2002, Geffen announced a $200 million unrestricted endowment for the School of Medicine at UCLA, which was renamed the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In 2012, he donated another $100 million to fund the full cost of attendance for up to 30 students per year. He has also supported St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and made numerous smaller donations to a variety of organizations that focus on AIDS and cancer, as well as various health clinics in the Los Angeles area.

EDUCATION: Geffen has supported Parents Action for Children, a nonprofit started by Rob Reiner that produces and distributes resources for parents, early childhood professionals, child advocates, health care providers, policymakers and the media to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood development and school readiness. He has also supported two Atlanta schools, the historically black Morehouse College, and the all-women Spelman College. He has also made smaller donations to organizations such as Read it LOUD, which runs a literacy campaign asking parents to spend at least 10 minutes a day reading with their children.

ARTS & CULTURE: In 1995, Geffen donated $5 million towards UCLA's Westwood Playhouse, which was renamed the Geffen Playhouse. He has also donated to National Public Radio, and tens of millions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Back east, meanwhile, Geffen recently gave $100 million to MoMA and $100 million to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He has also supported The New York Public Library, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA (MOCA), the American Film Institute, among others.

LGBT: Geffen has been one of the largest supporters of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, donating support to the organization that has brought state and federal challenges to laws that prohibit same-sex couples from getting married. He was also a major contributor to the campaign against California’s Proposition 8, has supported Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, and supports numerous other policy, advocacy, and legal defense organizations, and programs that provide services for LGBT youth.

LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY: In addition to providing funding for area health clinics, theaters, and museums, Geffen supports a variety of organizations that provide services to Los Angeles’ homeless population.

LOOKING FORWARD: David Geffen has no heirs and, for all his grantmaking so far, has barely made a dent in his fortune. So we expect big things to come at some point. Geffen is also an avid art collector, particularly of contemporary art. MoCA’s curator once said "There's no collection that has a better representation of post-war American art than David Geffen's.” MoCA and MoMA are definitely the top contenders to house his collection, though it is also possible he could elect to go the same route as Lucas and build a museum of his own. 


The David Geffen Foundation
12011 San Vicente Blvd. Suite 606
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 581-5900